The Lecture Notes of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby

Introductory Remarks by Ronald A. Hughes

There are a total of eight small hand-bound booklets photographed on the first reel of microfilm in the Boston University collection of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby materials. These booklets are simply numbered one through seven, there being two copies of “No. 1.” The first copy of “No. 1” shows revisions made to the text and the second copy shows those revisions incorporated into the text.

The designation of “Lecture Notes” for these otherwise un-named volumes comes from Horatio W. Dresser’s 1921 publication of The Quimby Manuscripts. On page 47 of the first edition and page 53 of the second edition of The Quimby Manuscripts, Dresser indicates that the lecture notes were used by P. P. Quimby during the period of his public exhibitions with Lucius C. Burkmar, who was Quimby’s subject for experiments and demonstrations in mesmerism. This period extended from the year 1843 through 1847. As Horatio Dresser was the son of two of Quimby’s patients, Julius A. Dresser and Annetta Gertrude (Seabury) Dresser, it is possible that he was in possession of information that would identify these volumes.

The language of the lecture notes, particularly in the first two volumes, is verbose in comparison with the remainder of P. P. Quimby’s writings. It has been suggested that someone may have assisted Quimby in writing these volumes. Another possibility is that Quimby himself was attempting to emulate the writing styles, language, and formatting of the publications he was drawing from for the purpose of giving lectures. He drew extensively on case studies presented in John Abercrombie’s Inquiries Concerning the Intellectual Powers, and the Investigation of Truth, (1842; published in New York by Harper and Brothers); and Volume 1 of the two-volume set of Thomas C. Upham’s 1839 publication Elements of Mental Philosophy, Embracing the Two Departments of the Intellect and the Sensibilities, (published in Portland, Maine by William Hyde, for Z. Hyde).

Thomas Cogswell Upham (1799-1872), a Professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine whose Elements of Mental Philosophy was published by Harper & Brothers of New York in 1840. Upham’s work was frequently revised and published in various formats and variant titles in more than 56 editions, including abridged versions that were used as high school and college textbooks.

John Abercrombie (1780-1844) was a Scottish physician, philosopher and author who received his medical degree from the University of Edinburgh in 1803. Abercrombie’s 1842 edition of Inquiries Concerning the Intellectual Powers, and the Investigation of Truth was also adopted as a textbook for classes in Intellectual Philosophy by several higher-educational institutions of the period.

Phineas Parkhurst Quimby quotes from both of these authors in his lecture notes, as well as from several others of what is known as the “Scottish School of Common Sense” or “Scottish Common-Sense Realism,” primarily to offer alternative explanations of the phenomena found in their case studies.

Further, Quimby discusses his views of his contemporaries in mesmerism and phrenology, most notably Charles Poyen, Robert H. Collyer, Chauncey Hare Townshend, Joseph R. Buchanan, La Roy Sunderland, and John Bovee Dods (the name “Dods” is spelled “Dodds” throughout the lecture notes.)

Although I am not a handwriting expert, it seems clear to me that the handwriting contained in Quimby’s lecture notes does not match the substantial collection of authenticated Quimby handwriting found in the Library of Congress collection. Yet it is equally clear to me that the narrative in the lecture notes is that of Quimby. This suggests the probability there was a copyist or transcriptionist involved in preparing these booklets who omitted a few quotation marks. Appropriate credit is given to John Abercrombie and Thomas Upham for their case studies, and therefore these minor omissions of punctuation by the copyist should be considered nothing more than a simple oversight.

In this publication, Phineas Parkhurst Quimby’s lecture notes are separated from the balance of his writings and presented in their original booklet format because this is historically accurate. The underlining of certain words reflects the underlining found in the original handwritten documents. For some unknown reason, these booklets were not microfilmed in their sequential order. The order of appearance in the Boston University microfilm is: No. 1; No. 1; No. 2; No. 3; No. 7; No. 6; No. 5; No. 4.

Source: Hughes, Ronald A. (ed.). Phineas Parkhurst Quimby: His Complete Writings and Beyond. Howard City, MI: Phineas Parkhurst Quimby Resource Center, 2009, pp. 38-39.

Phineas Parkhurst Quimby's Lecture Notes Date
Lecture Notes-Booklet 1 Early Writings
Lecture Notes-Booklet 2 Early Writings
Lecture Notes-Booklet 3 Early Writings
Lecture Notes-Booklet 4 Early Writings
Lecture Notes-Booklet 5 Early Writings
Lecture Notes-Booklet 6 Early Writings
Lecture Notes-Booklet 7 Early Writings